1. What inspired you to enter the field of retina?
As a medical student at Case Western Reserve, I remember teasing a friend for wanting to go into ophthalmology. I really had no idea what it was all about, but working with eyes definitely did not strike me as being very sexy. Instead, I knew I was destined for orthopedics or neurosurgery. And then a few years later I was convinced to do an ophthalmology rotation. I spent my first day observing Suber S. Huang, MD, MBA, peel membranes off the retina and immediately I was hooked. The beauty and sophistication of that surgery blew me away, and from that point on I was 100% retina bound.
2. You completed your retina fellowship at Wills Eye Hospital in 2012. What was the most valuable lesson you learned during fellowship?
My time at Wills Eye Hospital was two of the greatest years of my life, and I still cannot believe I was lucky enough to train there. I learned a great deal from many of the masters in our field. I learned medical retina in the trenches of the fellows' clinic and honed my skills as a surgeon performing more than 1000 procedures under the guidance of 20 attendings, all with a unique perspective and approach. Above all, I learned what it means to balance all of these things—being a cutting-edge surgeon, a top researcher, a leader at national meetings, and a caring physician, all while trying to be the best husband and father I could be.
3. Which upcoming innovations in retina most excite you?
Our field is progressing at a rapid pace, and there is a lot that excites me, but I am particularly interested to see the role of genetics, next-generation treatments for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and the evolution of retinal implants. Avalanche Biotechnologies is an exciting company that has gathered great talent and will soon be commencing clinical trials looking at gene therapy for AMD and other diseases. New molecules and sustained release devices being developed by Genentech and others promise to elevate the level of AMD care yet again. The retinal implants being developed by Mark S. Humayun, MD, PhD, and others probably have the biggest “wow” factor, and I cannot wait to see how they mature.
4. What advice can you offer to those seeking to deliver an effective conference talk?
You really cannot practice too much. You want to know the presentation cold, but you also need to understand how it fits in to the bigger picture. Once you master the talk and understand the background, take a step back and pretend that you are presenting only to a good friend. Do not just recite the talk word for word from memory; rather, tell a story. You will come across as more relaxed, more confident, and you may even smile while you are presenting.
5. It is your day off. Where can we expect to find you and what are you doing?
Unless I have an imminent talk, critical manuscript, or important research project to work on, every second I have off is spent with my family. My wife and two little boys are amazing and follow me on all sorts of miniature adventures—hiking up mountains, walking along cliffs by the ocean, watching hang gliders jump off those cliffs, or exploring the restaurants, parks, and the numerous wonders of San Diego. n